Writing about an abusive teen relationship was not an easy thing to do, in fact it was one of the hardest things I’ve written so far. Almost immediately I grew to love Anna. She was a character that developed quickly within me. She is an honest, hardworking, faithful girl. She strives for more and she cares fearlessly for those around her. I’ve known girls like Anna, and I’ve known girls like Anna who have ended up in awful toxic relationships.
At school, I remember the raw frustration of being single – I was that girl, the one that wanted a boyfriend and never had one. Yet most of my friends seemed to fall into relationships easily. Most of them were the usual up and down, first love headaches – but two of my friends had something different, they had something far more dangerous. Not that they realised that at the time.
One girl’s boyfriend would follow her around everywhere, a permanent shadow behind her. He vetted her friends, he questioned her movements. He was never violent, but the snarl on his face and his biting comments were enough to turn my bubbly mate into a quiet, compliant wreck. My other friend had it worse. Much worse. She ended up completely isolated and afraid, hiding bruises from her family, excusing his behaviour to friends and eventually leaving school to be with him. It took several violent and degrading incidents before she finally found the strength to leave.
I never forgot these stories, and even though these friends are safe and happy now, their faces still change when they talk of that time. They physically recoil and become quite angry. It was a bad time and they are both lucky to have got out when they did.
Maybe I would’ve forgotten about this if it wasn’t for the job that I ended up doing. Working with teens just highlighted that none of these issues have gone away. I remember one girl – once bubbly and outgoing, who was now trapped in a toxic web. Her boyfriend had complete control of her. He checked her phone, he kept her away from her family, and if she complained – he pinched her arms and pulled her hair.
“But he loves me,” she said, “you don’t understand.”
But I did. I’d seen it before. And not just with my female friends. Toxic love could twist any relationship, taint any love – and I understood only too well. I understood that it needed to end.
So, I had to write Crush. I had to tell Anna’s story and Will’s too. I needed to show how quickly abusive love can develop and the reasons why someone can chose to control another. Most importantly I wanted to show how crucial it is to break away before matters escalate.
Because love should never, ever be about control – and if I can help one teen reader realise that, I will be very happy.